Paul employs AI to release third “new” Beatles song

Cassingles, all the rage at the time, of The Beatles’ releases “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love”. A format unlikely to be used for the upcoming third “new” Beatles song..

As reported by the BBC, Sir Paul McCartney says artificial intelligence has enabled a ‘final’ Beatles song, to be released this year.

The two “new” Beatles songs of the nineties

In the mid-nineties, the three then remaining Beatles, Ringo, Paul and George cleaned up a couple of John Lennon demos to create the “new” Beatles songs “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love”. They were released as singles, as well as on the accompanying albums to their TV series, “The Beatles’ Anthology”. “Free As A Bird” was on “Anthology Volume 1”, “Real Love” on “Anthology Volume 2”. A volume 3 was also released, and a third song was attempted, but it seems to have eventually been nixed by George.

Yoko’s cassettes

In the early nineties, McCartney had asked Ono if she had any unreleased recordings by Lennon, so she sent him cassette tapes of four songs. “Free as a Bird” was recorded by Lennon in 1977, but was not complete. Lennon introduced the song on the cassette by imitating a New York accent and saying, “Free—as a boid” (bird). The other songs were “Grow Old With Me”, “Real Love”, and “Now and Then”. Ono says that it was Harrison and former Beatles road manager Neil Aspinall who initially asked her about the concept of adding vocals and instrumentation to Lennon’s demo tapes. Ono stated: “People have said it was all agreed when Paul came over to New York to induct John into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but it was all settled before then. I just used that occasion to hand over the tapes personally to Paul.”

McCartney went to Ono’s home after the induction ceremony at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to listen to, and receive, the Lennon demo tapes; he recalls the meeting with Ono:

She was there with Sean … and she played us a couple of tracks. There were two newies on mono cassettes which he did at home … [s]o I checked it out with Sean, because I didn’t want him to have a problem with it. He said, “Well, it’ll be weird hearing a dead guy on lead vocal. But give it a try.” I said to them both, “If it doesn’t work out, you can veto it.” When I told George and Ringo I’d agreed to that they were going, “What? What if we love it?” It didn’t come to that, luckily. I said to Yoko, “Don’t impose too many conditions on us, it’s really difficult to do this, spiritually. We don’t know, we may hate each other after two hours in the studio and just walk out. So don’t put any conditions, it’s tough enough.”

During an interview for the Anthology project, McCartney revealed that he was surprised to learn that Lennon’s demos of “Grow Old With Me” and “Real Love” had already been released and were well known by Lennon fans. “Grow Old With me” is on “Milk and Honey” (1984) and “Real Love” is on the soundtrack album to the Andrew Solt “John Lennon  Imagine” film (1988).

Two posthumous Lennon albums from the eighties which Paul wasn’t familiar with.

Now And Then – the abandoned track

Before work on “Now and Then” began, Producer Jeff Lynne and engineer Marc Mann, set to work cleaning up the song. Lynne had worked on the mono cassette demos to bring them up to an acceptable quality where they could be worked on. “Now And Then” proved more of a technical challenge, as a 60-cycle mains hum could be heard throughout the whole recording.

Lynne and his team spent two weeks working on cleaning up the song at his home studio. A noise reduction tool for Pro Tools called DINR was used to remove the tapes noises.

They also prepared a “Temp Track Demo”. Using the MIDI sequencer Opcode Studio Vision, Lynne and Mann came up with an arrangement with drums, bass, piano and strings. The purpose of this demo was to see how a Beatles version of the song may sound and then present the ideas to the group.

Lynne and Mann now had a cleaned-up version of the song on a two-track DAT tape. With the adjusted/cleaned-up Lennon recording on one track, and a “click” track, or metronome track, on the other, to provide a strong audible guide for Ringo to add his drum rhythms to.

This was then brought to Paul McCartney’s Hog Hill Mill Studio in Sussex and transferred ot a 24-track reel-to-reel analog tape machine, to which other instruments were added on the remaining tracks (in fact, a second 24-track machine was “synched-up” with the first to provide 48 tracks for recording).

The three remaining Beatles soon began work on all demos with Jeff Lynne producing. Work on the demos began on 11th February 1994 with “Free As A Bird”, followed by work on “Now And Then” on 22nd June 1994.

The DAT master for “Now and Then” was transferred to analogue 24-track multi-track.

According to McCartney, the sessions for “Now And Then” were difficult. Like “Free As A Bird”, Lennon’s recording of “Now And Then” was still a work-in-progress. The lyrics sung by Lennon on his demo recording weren’t fully written at that stage. Lennon would fill in the missing lyrics with vocalisations as a place holder with the vocal melody. The three Beatles recorded attempted a basic backing track.

It was decided to abandon the song for the time being and focus on the more complete “Real Love”. Work continued “Now And Then” in early February 1995. McCartney was keen to continue work on the song, but the sessions ended (after having recorded a rough backing track) with a frustrated Harrison declaring the song “f***ing rubbish”. Work stopped on the recording in May 1995. You can read the full story of these recording sessions here.

A new mix of “Free As A Bird”

On 6 November 2015, Apple Records released a new deluxe version of the “1” album in different editions and variations (known as “1+”). Most of the tracks on “1” have been remixed from the original multi-track masters by Giles Martin. Giles Martin, with Jeff Lynne, also remixed “Free as a Bird” to accompany the music video for the DVD and Blu-ray releases.

The remix of “Free as a Bird” cleans up Lennon’s vocal further, and uses a different take of Harrison’s vocal phrase, replacing the lyric “whatever happened to the life that we once knew” with “whatever happened to the love that we once knew”. Towards the end of the track, this version also contains a clip of Lennon stating the phrase “turned out nice again” (George Formby’s catchphrase) played forward—which was played backwards in the original mix of the song.

McCartney’s lead vocal, buried in the original mix to serve as a double-track for Lennon’s own vocal, can now be heard more prominently in the second verse.


Paul’s reveal

In a new interview with BBC Radio (available here) about his new photo book and upcoming exhibition, Paul explained that AI (artificial intelligence) technology had been used to “extricate” John Lennon’s voice from an old demo so he could complete the song.

“We just finished it up and it’ll be released this year,” he explained.

Paul did not name the song, but a BBC news article speculates that it probably is the 1978 demo of “Now And Then”. The band had attempted to record the song, which was an apologetic love song that was fairly typical of Lennon’s later career, but the session was quickly abandoned. The title has later been confirmed, when Skye @hidIive from “Beatles reddit” found the copyright renewal form for “Now and Then”, dated 7th Feb 2023 for “work registered” and “work amended” (thanks to Stephen in the comment section for mentioning this).

Proof that “Now and Then” was worked on this February.

“It was one day – one afternoon, really – messing with it,” producer Jeff Lynne recalled.

“The song had a chorus but is almost totally lacking in verses. We did the backing track, a rough go that we really didn’t finish.”

Sir Paul later claimed George Harrison had declared the song “rubbish” and refused to work on it.

“It didn’t have a very good title, it needed a bit of reworking, but it had a beautiful verse and it had John singing it,” he told Q Magazine.

“[But] George didn’t like it. The Beatles being a democracy, we didn’t do it.”

But in the new BBC interview, Paul talks about how he found out that amateurs experimenting with AI had been able to make it appear that John Lennon was singing one of Paul’s songs and that he had employed the technique to make “the last Beatles record”, as he calls it.

Q: What do you think about efforts that are being made through technology through artificial intelligence to recreate the early Beatles making your voice sound younger bringing those voices back from from the grave really?

Paul: Well, it’s a very interesting thing, you know, it’s something we’re all sort of tackling at the moment, trying to deal with what it’ll mean. I don’t hear it that much, because I’m not on the on the internet that much. But people will say to me ‘oh yeah there’s a track where John is singing one of my songs, and it isn’t, it’s just AI you know, so all of that is kind of scary but exciting, because it’s it’s the future and we were able to use that kind of thing.

Paul: When Peter Jackson did the film ‘Get Back’ where it was us making the ‘Let It Be’ album, and he was able to extracate John’s voice from a ropey little bit of cassette where it had John’s voice and a piano he could separate them with AI. They could do they tell the machine ‘that’s a voice, this is a guitar (sic), lose the guitar’, and he did that, so he has great uses.

Paul: So … we came to make what will be the last Beatles record. It was a demo that John had that we worked on and we just finished it up to be released this year. We were able to take John’s voice and get it pure through this AI, so then we could mix the record as you would normally do, you know. So it gives you it gives you some sort of leeway, so there’s a good side to it and then a scary side, and we’re just not to see where that leads.

Our guess is that AI has been combined with machine learning to this track. Machine learning is used to separate the piano from the vocals, and AI to enhance the vocals. Amateurs experimenting with AI already did work on “Now and Then”, listen to it here.

In the 2012 “Mr Blue Sky: The Story of Jeff Lynne and ELO” documentary,  Paul also mentioned getting together with Lynne and finish off Now And Then “one of these days”, as you can hear in this TikTok clip.

Seeing as the new work on “Now And Then” was registered in February, Ringo may have added a new drum track to the remake. Also, George’s guitar work from the rough backing track may have been used to secure all four Beatles’ involvement in the released song.

As for the fourth song Yoko gave to Paul, “Grow Old With Me” was recorded and released by Ringo Starr, featuring Paul McCartney on bass guitar and backing vocals on Ringo’s 2019 album, “What’s My Name”. Listen to their version here.


BBC News
BBC Sounds – Best of today
Wikipedia: Free As A Bird

37 Responses

  1. Tony says:

    Oh my! This is huge news!

  2. NB7 says:

    This is ridiculously huge news!
    Paul mentioned the Let It Be sessions and Peter Jackson, could it be a reworking of Watching Rainbows that wasn’t on the Let It Be set?
    Obviously the money is on Now and Then but what if it isn’t?!

    • admin says:

      We think that Paul’s mention of Get Back is just to say that the same technology (known as MAL) was employed on this new release.

  3. John Kaelin says:

    Will this be part of a larger reissue/remaster of The Anthology series?

  4. Diego says:

    I hope they use this release to put the Anthology out on bluray finally, including the full Threetles footage.

  5. Andrey Michael says:


  6. Stephen says:

    It’s 100% Now and Then.
    Skye @hidIive from Beatles reddit found the copyright renewal form for ‘Now and Then’ dated 7th Feb 2023 for ‘work registered’ and ‘work amended’.

  7. Kevin says:

    So what about contributions from George and Ringo? Is Paul using their old 1995 takes, such as there may be? Or is this all Paul’s wizardry applied over John’s demo?

    • Stephen says:

      Paul has always stated that he wants to ‘finish’ the 1995 track. There’s no way Olivia and Dhani would agree to it being a ‘Beatle’ track without George being present on it.

      • Kevin says:

        Ta! I know that Paul, Ringo, and Olivia and Yoko, as representatives of their husbands’ estates, have to agree on anything put out as a “Beatles” release. So I take some comfort in that.

  8. Stephen says:

    Really think this should be an EP with either the more modern Jeff Lynne remixes of FAAB and Real Love on it, or even newer remixes, using the MAL technology to bring Lennon’s vocal up more prominently.

  9. Michael Mason says:

    I’ve heard the current recording of Now and Then dozens of times. This is a great song that should be completed.

  10. DrRobert says:

    A great idea for the EP! They would never do this, but Grow Old Along with Me has parts from John, Paul, Ringo, and George Martin. Those 4 songs together, remixed/remastered, wpuld make for a fine “final Beatles” EP.

  11. Craig Hedges says:

    Paul just mentions it like everybody already knew about it, not I’ve got a big exclusive for you”. Has Peter Jackson got another Beatle project coming out this year? he seemed very interested in the period after the Let it Be sessions, has he done a documentary about the final months of the Beatles and this song will be played at the end. Its got to be tied to a project for us to get more money out of us. It won’t just be released and disappear as a stream/download. I hope there is a big global first play with events like ABBA did with their comeback song, be great to go to Liverpool to hear the premiere.

  12. Bob says:

    I’m excited for the 17 year old to experience what most everyone experienced in our life times.
    Just purely speculation…..A little while ago didn’t Peter Jackson mention he was working on another project with the Sirs? Wonder if this could perhaps be a part of what it is he’s doing? Hard to imagine this as a stand alone single. It will be nice to have a ‘final'(wink, wink) gift.

  13. James Peet says:

    It’s exciting news, certainly. The versions that I’ve heard online are interesting, and hopefully the finished release will be as good as they can possibly be. It’s very moving to think that John wrote “for Paul” on the cassette. This is news to me, I don’t recall any mention of this during the Anthology period. I could be wrong.

    Given the modern way of releasing singles, I’d imagine that it’ll be a stand-alone digital affair. Being the Beatles, they might issue physical versions, which would be nice. I never feel like I “own” music that is digitally stored on my computer/phone.

    The release date may be to chime with Christmas, which was a Beatles tradition in the sixties.

  14. Tumble Starker says:

    Horrific news, there is a reason these tracks were not released in the first place, the reason being they were shite the first time round and deemed not worthy of being recorded! This nonsense needs to stop, ‘Free as a Bird’, ‘Real Love’ both substandard Beatles tracks, no one deems them classics and if George says it’s shite then it needs to stay in the can, no amount of robots can create the chemistry the Beatles had between 1960 – 1970, for me it’s all about more money into the coffers! Pack it in and enjoy the original albums!

    • Danny Jones says:

      They were demos. Lots of bands/artists record demos and come back to them at some point further down the line. Not always on the next album they release either. So it’s wrong to say they were deemed not worthy of release. It could be that Lennon DID think that, and we’ll never know. Yes George didn’t like the results of Now & Then but that was without the new tech to clean it up better. Plus George also vetoed tracks off the Anthology project that have since turned up on the SDE box sets. That said if you think they are Sh*te that’s completely your prerogative. I happen to think Free as a Bird and Real Love are better than Maxwell’s Silver Hammer & Honey Pie at the very least 🙂

  15. Bill Chi says:

    “Nice job Lennon”

  16. Juan says:

    It’s known that Paul always throws this sort of comments when needed. I’ll believe it when I hear it.

  17. Blakey says:

    As you say, Juan, Paul does ‘time’ these ‘announcements’ when ‘required’ (as John and George both noticed). But whether this track will be good or bad is up in the air. John’s vocal on ‘Now and Then’ is clearer than both ‘Free As A Bird’ and ‘Real Love’. But ‘Free As Bird’ – I feel – had too much Jeff Lynne influence. It sounds like a slowed down ELO. I wonder if Giles and Sam will be brought in to rejuvenate ‘Now and Then’?

    Also, hard to see it as just a one track stand alone ‘single’. Will there be an ‘Anthology 4’. Or will there be a ‘Love’ style album, but featuring the solo Beatles combined (like the bootleg ‘Everyday Chemistry’)?

  18. Blakey says:

    One other thought is did George leave any unreleased songs or demos that could be made into a Beatles track? As well as ‘Now and Then’ it would be lovely to have a ‘new’ Beatles song with a Harrison vocal as well.

  19. Blakey says:

    I am optimistic about this ‘last’ Beatles track. Sort of proof it can be done. Three Beatles on one song here. Beautiful Night combined with Stand By Me.

  20. Tim Wilson says:

    There is a lot that could be done with AI on some of the unfinished or half played tracks from Get Back/Let It Be sessions. Yes, it’s not the same creative Beatle centric process, especially with half the group missing, but they could be enjoyable tidbits that do no harm to their legacy.
    Could you morph the pre or post breakup versions of Every Night, Teddy Boy, Another Day, Jealous Guy (On the Road to Marrakesh), All Things Must Pass, Isn’t It A Pity (all played within the group prior to splitting) into something more Beatle-like with AI?

  21. William Campbell says:

    The double CD release of Anthology 3 left room for “Now And Then,” but the song didn’t get finished. So maybe we’ll get remasters of the Anthology series of CDs, with “Now And Then” finally on Anthology 3. And probably with the usual brick walling by the digitally hampered Giles Martin, unfortunately.

  22. Tim Wilson says:

    I never figured out the rationale for the brick walling of some of the remasters. It reduced fidelity and dynamic range. Made them sound less alive with diminished presence. Don’t need to make their recordings louder….we all have a volume control.

    • Glenn says:

      I’ve always found it ironic that digital gave us a medium with increased dynamic range. Unfortunately it also gave us an objective value for maximum volume. So what do producers do? Squash the hell out of the dynamics to make it louder.

  23. Tom says:

    I thought the third “new” Beatles Song was called All for Love”.

  24. Arno Guzek says:

    Sean wrote on twitter 5.49 PM · 17. jun. 2023 That is not happening. All we did was clean the noise from the vocal track. People are completely misunderstanding what occurred. There have always been ways of ‘de-noising’ tracks but AI just does it better because it learns what the vocal is and is able to very precisely remove everything that is not the vocal.

  25. B Browne says:

    Sean has added another comment on Twitter’, in response to someone asking what role George plays on the new track. Sean tweeted, ‘Hey Carolyn…I shouldn’t speak too much on this yet but I’ll just say the track turned out beautifully and I think everyone will be very happy.’

  26. William Campbell says:

    A few months ago, I dug out the 4 copies of the promo 45 of “The Beatles’ Movie Medley” that I had picked up years ago. None of them had ever been played.

    I transferred them to digital at 24 bit, 192 kHz. But I only used the first copy for editing because it was in perfect condition. There weren’t any vinyl flaws that needed patching up from the other 3 copies. I manually cleaned up the first copy, and it sounds great. The full dynamics have been retained.

    It could make a great addition to the end of disc 2 of Anthology 3.

    If anyone would like “more information” about a 16 bit, 44.1 kHz version, contact me at rnrmagicman ‘at’ gmail.

  27. John N Kaelin says:

    Paul just tweeted to clarify the new song. He confirmed it is real and all 4 of them play on it. He once again said it is coming later this year.

  1. June 15, 2023

    […] If the song is “Now and Then,” it’s unclear whether Harrison, who died in 2001, made significant contributions to the recording. However, a 2005 story in The Washington Post claims that he is on the track. According to The Beatles Bible, the three only worked on the song for two days, producing a “rough backing track.” […]

  2. June 19, 2023

    […] Beatles fans are having very different ideas and emotions regarding the up and coming “final Beatles song” which Paul McCartney mentioned off hand in a BBC interview, as we reported in a previous post. […]

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